Editors Jimmy Lovaas and Agnese Boffano discuss Israel’s recent military operation in the Gaza Strip, plus more on U.S. House lawmakers returning from recess, Pakistan’s Tehreek-e-Insaf political party holding a rally in Lahore, Thailand and China holding joint air force exercises and leaders from Serbia and Kosovo meeting.
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This episode was produced with work from Factal editors Joe Veyera, Irene Villora, Matthew Hipolito, Alex Moore and Agnese Boffano. Music courtesy of Andrew Gospe.
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Copyright © 2022 Factal. All rights reserved.
This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
JIMMY LOVAAS, HOST:
Welcome to the Factal Forecast, a look at the week’s biggest stories and what they mean from the editors at Factal. I’m Jimmy Lovaas.
Today is August 11th.
In this week’s forecast we’ve got US House lawmakers returning from recess, a political rally in Pakistan, Thailand and China holding air force exercises, leaders from Serbia and Kosovo meeting and a look at Israel’s recent military operation in the Gaza Strip.
You can also read about these stories and more in our weekly newsletter, which you can find a link to in the show notes.
U.S. House returns from recess
Information compiled by Joe Veyera
JIMMY: The U.S. House of Representatives will return to Capitol Hill tomorrow, where they're expected to take up the climate, tax, and health care bill passed by Senate Democrats last weekend.
On Sunday afternoon, the evenly-divided Senate approved the $750 billion measure with Vice President Kamala Harris casting the tie-breaking vote.
Democrats hold a narrow 220-210 majority in the House, leaving them with little wiggle room for defections on final passage.
Republicans have blasted the bill, claiming it will make inflation worse and negatively impact small business and manufacturing. Democrats, on the other hand, are calling the bill significant progress, pointing to provisions allowing Medicare to negotiate prescription drug prices and a $60 billion outlay for domestic production of clean energy components.
Now, with most forecasts currently projecting Republicans to take control of the chamber following the November midterms, Democratic leadership is hoping to make inroads with voters with the passage of several key legislative priorities in the coming months.
PTI holds rally in Lahore
Information compiled by Irene Villora
JIMMY: Pakistan’s Tehreek-e-Insaf political party, or PTI as it’s often just referred to, well, it will be holding a rally in Lahore on Saturday to celebrate the country’s 75th anniversary of its independence.
The rally will be held at Lahore’s hockey stadium instead of the original venue, Islamabad’s Parade Ground, amid concerns of a protest by supporters of a rival party. That, according to PTI’s leader Omar Ayub.
Former Prime Minister Imran Khan is expected to unveil a “strategy” against the current coalition government at the rally.
Now, beyond celebrating Pakistan’s independence, the rally aims to serve as a display of power for the party and for Khan, who recently announced his candidacy to nine constituencies in the country’s September by-elections. That, after being ousted from office in a no-confidence vote in April.
Pakistan’s interior minister warned PTI sympathizers of a strong police response if the rally turns into a violent protest.
Thailand and China hold joint air force exercises
Information compiled by Matthew Hipolito
JIMMY: Aircraft from Thailand and China will descend upon a Thai air base in Udon Thani on Sunday. The aircraft, mainly fighter jets, will be conducting joint exercises for the first time since 2019.
First held in 2015, the so-called Falcon Strike exercises are aimed at benefiting both countries’ capabilities and relations.
This year’s exercises will primarily involve Chinese-made J-10 and Swedish-made Gripen multirole aircraft, leaving out both country’s Russian-origin and U.S-made jets.
Now, the exercises come at a precarious time in relations between China and the United States. Just days ago, China launched massive live-fire exercises in extreme proximity to Taiwanese territory.
The U.S. designates both Taiwan and Thailand as “major non-NATO allies,” and concerns have mounted that Thailand is falling into Beijing’s orbit.
A chill in relations between Washington and Bangkok could have significant ramifications for Thailand, whose largest import partner is the United States and whose air force is largely composed of U.S.-made jets, which may soon include F-35s.
Serbia, Kosovo leaders to discuss tensions
Information compiled by Alex Moore
JIMMY: The heads of state of Serbia and Kosovo will meet in Brussels starting next Thursday. The meeting comes following late-July’s border flareup.
As you may recall, tensions escalated starkly the last weekend of July with gunfire along the border and blockades erected along multiple roads and border crossings.
The unrest was sparked by a new Kosovar law designed to force ethnic Serbs to acquire Kosovar license plates and visitors to get ID cards. That reignited issues surrounding the sovereignty of the partially-recognized state.
Now, next week’s talks are under the auspices of the European Union, which has acted as the arbiter of such discussions since 2011, three years after Kosovo declared independence from Serbia.
And while tensions have deescalated after the implementation of the license plate and ID law was delayed, the respite is just for one month, leaving a longer term solution a more daunting prospect.
European leaders hope the talks can find a more lasting solution and avoid a repeat of the border crisis come early September.
Israeli operation on Gaza
Information compiled by Agnese Boffano
JIMMY: Our last item for this forecast is on Israel’s recent operation in the Gaza Strip. For more on that I spoke with Factal Editor Agnese Boffano.
JIMMY: Hello, Agnese.
AGNESE: Hey, Jimmy, thanks for having me.
JIMMY: I'm glad you're here. You know, a lot went on around Gaza last week and I'm sure a lot of folks would appreciate an update on what exactly went down. Can you catch us up to speed?
AGNESE: Yeah, of course. So, it kind of started at the beginning of the month when Israeli forces conducted a raid in the northern West Bank town of Jenin and they arrested a member of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad movement. Israel then claimed that, in fear of retaliatory attacks, it would begin a week-long operation on Gaza, which they said would be carried out with “surgical strikes,” as they said. And it was true that quite a few Islamic Jihad officials were targeted and killed in several strikes that went on for three days across the Strip, including a commander by the name of al-Jabari, but it seems as though the operation was anything but surgical. By the end of the three days of fighting, you know, we saw more than 45 Palestinians killed, including at least 15 children and more than 350 others injured. On the Israeli side, we also saw a couple of people that were injured by shrapnel and several others who were reportedly hurt from falling down while seeking shelter while the sirens were running. And, you know, eventually on Sunday, there was a Cairo-brokered ceasefire between Islamic Jihad and Israel and the week long operation ended up being three days of, you know, constant strikes. But it ended after three days.
JIMMY: Can you explain a little bit about what the Palestinian Islamic Jihad is?
AGNESE: Yeah, so Palestinian Islamic Jihad is a group that was founded in the 80s with the aim of creating a Palestinian state in the now-besieged Gaza Strip, the occupied West Bank and areas across Israel. And Israeli officials like to call it an Iranian proxy, but the capacity of its armed wing, the so called al-Quds brigade, is quite limited to a small arsenal of small arms and rockets. This is one of the differences compared to Hamas, which is the governing militant body in Gaza, and also the fact that Islamic Jihad refused to participate in elections and, you know, there's no real attempt to create a government-run organization in the same way as Hamas. Of course, as I mentioned, Islamic Jihad is actually not the main actor in Gaza, Hamas is, and what was particularly interesting about this round of conflict is that, you know, despite Hamas expressing support for Islamic Jihad's actions, the group refrained from engaging directly as Israeli officials, before starting this operation, they declared from the onset that they were not targeting Hamas, they were targeting Islamic Jihad specifically. Of course, analysts believe that this might not be the only reason why Hamas didn't engage in the conflict this time. You know, if you remember, last year in May, Gaza is still recovering from this 11-day war where, you know, not only were hundreds of Palestinians killed and civilian infrastructures destroyed, but Hamas's arsenal of rockets was severely damaged, too. So it makes sense for them not to have wanted to engage this round.
JIMMY: What was Palestinian Islamic Jihad's response to the strikes in Gaza?
AGNESE: Yeah, so over the course of three days, we saw and we heard sirens sounding across not only southern Israel in towns neighboring the Gaza Strip, but also in areas near Jerusalem – even Ben Gurion Airport. And according to the Israeli military, over the course of three days the militant group is said to have fired more than 1,100 [rockets] – most of which, of course, were intercepted by the Iron Dome defense system. Now, Israel also claims that some of the deaths included in the 45 Palestinians killed were due to failed [rocket] strikes from Islamic Jihad that just fell short and fell into what Israel says are residential areas in the Gaza Strip. And there has been some independent reporting and live TV footage that does show some rockets falling short and landing in what appears to be, you know, these residential areas in Gaza, but it's really difficult to verify this. I mean, you know, neither side are going to admit to civilian casualties, and especially Islamic Jihad, who relies on this Iran funding for their arsenal. They're very unlikely to admit to any of these casualties.
JIMMY: What consequences do you think Gaza will see from all this?
AGNESE: Yeah, I mean, anything on Gaza is going to have massive consequences. I mean, we're talking about one of the most densely populated areas in the world with roughly 2.1 million people living across a strip of land that is about 225 miles squared. So any strike on this Palestinian territory, whether it's from Islamic Jihad, or, you know, [rockets] falling short or Israel actively bombarding the Gaza Strip, you know, it's going to have severe consequences. And this is not only for the dozens of people killed and hundreds of people injured this time, but, you know, infrastructure again took a massive toll. And I say again because, as I mentioned earlier, Gaza hasn't yet been able to recover from last year's 11-day war, during which not only were hundreds of Palestinians killed, but hospitals, schools, refugee camps, roads – all of these were targeted as well. And with Gaza having been under a blockade for more than 15 years now, with extremely volatile humanitarian corridors, it's just incredibly difficult to bring in supplies, whether it be for road infrastructure or medical supplies, even.
JIMMY: So, where do things stand now? What should folks be watching for?
AGNESE: So ,right now, ever since Sunday, this ceasefire that was brokered by Cairo has held up. You know, on Monday, we saw UN trucks entering the besieged strip with fuel. On Tuesday, Palestinian workers were able to cross the northern Enez border and work into Israel. But of course, the security situation, both along the Gaza border and across the West Bank, remains and will likely remain tense. Just a couple of days ago, on Tuesday, there was a very deadly Israeli raid on Nablus, in the West Bank, where [the] militant leader of Fattah's armed wing was killed alongside two others. And this was, you know, this was a very, very complicated operation on Nablus, that became very fatal very quickly. So we're seeing all of these security things, you know, these flare-ups continue. Also, something worth noting is that Israel elections are coming up. And what this means is that, you know, the current Prime Minister Lapid, this was his first conflict, his first major military operation. You know, Lapid doesn't have much of a military or combat background, so it's also interesting to see how this is going to play out for elections, especially now that he's running against, you know, the main opposition figure of Netanyahu. So we are going to see probably a political shift in Israel itself, but of course, unfortunately, no political shift in the conflict itself and certainly nothing in the better for Gaza.
JIMMY: Well, Agnese, I think we're going to stop here today, but thank you very much for keeping us informed on this serious issue. Appreciate your insight.
AGNESE: Thank you, Jimmy.
JIMMY: Take care.
JIMMY: As always, thank you for listening to the Factal Forecast. We publish our forward-looking podcast and newsletter each Thursday to help you get a jump-start on the week ahead. Please subscribe and review wherever you find your podcasts. We’d love it if you’d consider telling a friend about us.
Today’s episode was produced with work from Factal editors Joe Veyera, Irene Villora, Matthew Hipolito and Alex Moore. Our interview featured editor Agnese Boffano and our music comes courtesy of Andrew Gospe.
Until next time, if you have any feedback, suggestions or events we’ve missed, drop us a note by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
This transcript may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability not guaranteed.
Copyright © 2022 Factal. All rights reserved.
Music: 'Factal Theme' courtesy of Andrew Gospe